Emil Castaginer and Marta Lualdi

A romance story is best when there is mutual growth between the pair in question, which is what the central characters of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World exemplify very well. It may not seem that way early on when Emil Castaginer and Marta Lualdi begin their journey. Marta is smitten with Emil, but it becomes clear that she is infatuated with an overblown, unrealistic portrayal of him rather than the actual Emil. She believes that he rescued her in a terrible massacre six months prior and came to exaggerate his character and miss or ignore his timidness and lack of confidence. Emil is too overwhelmed by her eccentricities and her clingy, jealous tendencies to do anything about it at first, and while he appreciates having her as a friend, their relationship seems entirely one-sided.

What seems to be more of a running gag than a romance finally starts to turn around by the third chapter, when Emil has had enough of Marta's unfair assessment of him. He snaps at her, telling her that he's not the white knight she's imagined and is not the person she believes him to be. Taking his words to heart, she begins to see him for who he really is: a somewhat cowardly boy with a good heart who does his best in spite of his faults. Meanwhile, Marta behaves more reasonable towards Emil and can mostly control her jealousy. It's a dramatic enough change that Emil is slightly worried that she thinks less of him, which causes fellow traveler Centurion Tenebrae to tease Emil, saying he misses her constant declarations of "I love you" to him.

The changes in their relationship, from awkward friends to true understanding is significant growth in its own right, but there are also steady and noticeable changes to Emil and Marta's character. Marta may have behaved a bit too eccentrically, but she gave Emil some newfound confidence, and more importantly, the chance to make new friends. As the game progresses and Marta falls in love with the real Emil, she continues to help him find courage and gives him support, especially when the truth behind his identity comes to surface. In turn, Emil pulls Marta down to earth, helps her to view people realistically, and even gives her the courage she gave him before when she has to face her fears and bad habit of running away from her problems. This is all while they learn more about each other, their friendship blossoming into real love. This builds to a powerful scene in chapter eight that is sure to pull hard on those heartstrings and perhaps elicit a few tears.

Their romance is not only incredibly heartwarming, it is well-paced considering the game's short length and is instrumental to Emil and Marta's character development. Video games are far from the best media for good romance stories, so to see one done so well in Dawn of the New World is very welcome. — Cassandra Ramos

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